The Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES), or Super Famicom, was a haven for role-playing games. Throughout the console’s lifespan, it enjoyed a wide variety of RPGs, from established franchises to weird and wonderful one-off adventures, each one a rich and vibrant world of discovery, conflict and excitement. Don’t know where to start? Here’s our pick of six supreme SNES RPGs, broken down into categories to help you choose. All these games and many more feature in Bitmap Books’ SNES/Super Famicom: a visual compendium and The SNES Pixel Book, both available at www.bitmapbooks.com.
Hey, Not Too Rough: For An RPG Newbie
Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest
This spin-off from Square’s famous series was released in 1992 and is the ultimate entry-level RPG for anyone wishing to dip their +1 sword into the genre. With the American market in mind, its developers focused on altering the gameplay for an audience assumed to have less patience. Gone are the random battles and pre-defined save points; now, the player can travel the land without fear of sudden attack and save their game whenever they feel like it. Also absent is the overarching ability to explore freely, the player funnelled into specific areas as the game progresses. While many decried these decisions, there’s no doubt that they make Mystic Quest an ideal starting point for anyone just entering the world of SNES RPGs. Also try: Super Mario RPG: Legend Of The Seven Stars.
Bring On The Pain: For A Serious Challenge
The 7th Saga
Conversely, you may be an experienced RPG player, your plate armour flecked with the detritus of a thousand turn-based battles. Weary of inconsequential enemies that are mere fodder for your blade, you yearn for an opponent that will challenge every fibre of your being. What you need, brave warrior, is Enix’s The 7th Saga, an RPG of such extreme difficulty that it reduces even veterans such as yourself to tears. The 7th Saga takes place on a world called Ticondera and is an epoch-spanning story of betrayal and lust for power. Playing the Western version of The 7th Saga is an exercise in persistence, its legion of enemies able to absorb an outrageously massive amount of damage. As such, it’s a game only for those willing to grind, grind, and grind. And then grind some more. Also try: Wizardry V: Heart Of The Maelstrom.
No Waiting In Line: Action RPG Gold
The Action RPG genre found its feet on the Super Nintendo, and there are few finer examples than this excellent game from developer Quintet and publisher Enix. Thematically, little differentiates Soul Blazer from standard RPGs: an evil spirit named Deathtoll – the clue is in the name – has devastated the land of Friel, packing each village and town with its monstrous creations. Deathtoll resides in the appropriately-named World Of Evil, and only once the player has gathered six magic stones can they open the path to Deathtoll’s realm and end his reign of terror once and forever. As with the Zelda series, Soul Blazer eschews turn-based battles in favour of direct combat. There’s no more waiting as the enemy strikes – get in there and hack! Also try: Terranigma.
For The Love Of Crawlers: Finest First-Person RPG
Back in the nineties, the third-person semi-overhead viewpoint dominated the genre, as did colossal open-world environments. The SNES isn’t particularly blessed with fine examples of old school dungeon crawlers, yet there are still plenty of this type of RPG for anyone keen to explore dingy underground locations one grid square at a time. Top of the pile is the classic Dungeon Master, adapted from the Atari ST original. Inspired by the legendary Ultima series, the player forms a party and descends to the depths in search of fortune and glory. Dungeon Master utilises a point-and-click interface for combat and movement, giving a finer sense of immersion into its dark, grimy world. Also try: Advanced Dungeons & Dragons: Eye Of The Beholder.
To Infinity And Beyond: Greatest Sci-Fi RPG
Cited by many fans as one of the greatest videogames ever made, EarthBound (known as Mother 2 in Japan) is also an excellent RPG for anybody looking to escape the traditional swords and sorcery fantasy setting. The player is Ness, a young boy living in the fictional country, Eagleland. A malignant alien force has shrouded the world in evil, turning innocent people and animals into vicious and spiteful creatures. Across the world and time, Ness and his friends take the fight to Giygas, the alien slowly going insane through power. While it features many traditional SNES RPG elements (random battles, dungeons, experience points), EarthBound’s contemporary locations and fantastical sci-fi fundamentals, such as the Phase Distorter device, mark it as a novel experience away from the standard fantasy setting. Also try: Robotrek.
Something Different: Grade A Alternative RPG
This cyberpunk-infused RPG is based on a tabletop game from FASA Corporation and is quite like nothing else on the Super Nintendo. Set in the year 2050, Shadowrun is the story of Jake Armitage, suffering from amnesia following a near-fatal assassination attempt. Throughout its dystopian world, Armitage discovers clues to his identity and why his mysterious nemesis wants him dead. Shadowrun successfully blends the RPG and point-and-click genres to create a wonderfully atmospheric and innovative game that’s perfect should you fancy something a little different. Also try: EVO: The Search For Eden.
Don’t forget, you can read about any of the above SNES RPGs in our SNES/Super Famicom: a visual compendium and The SNES Pixel Book, both available at www.bitmapbooks.com. Love RPGs in general? Then check out the imminent reprint of A Guide to Japanese Role-Playing Games.